Banditos, Bo White Y Su Orquesta, Stagbriar, Shallow Palace
Columbia Museum of Art
Aug. 1, 2014
There’s just something about drinking beer and listening to rock ‘n’ roll in the lobby of an art museum that’s kind of irresistible. Kicking off its fifth season, the Columbia Museum of Art's Arts & Draughts event cashes in on this draw, transforming relatively straightforward concerts into community-defining events that draw hundreds more than a regular club gig.
Despite the built-in appeals, the event’s organizers — the museum and local bar The Whig — take care to curate a solid lineup of music and arts attractions, like Thomas Crouch’s live painting (awesome) and Richland Library’s DIY art booth (also cool). In addition to the local bands Stagbriar and Shallow Palace, Arts & Draughts also brought in Charlotte indie rock oddity Bo White Y Su Orchestra and the energetic Banditos, a Nashville crew that sends old-school country and soul shimmying through a lively garage rock filter.
All the bands performed admirably, but despite the amazing atmosphere of the outdoor stage set up on the museum’s plaza, both acts performing there suffered. Chalk it up to the large sprawl of the space, the tiny stage and sound system, or the loud murmur of a crowd more interested in socializing than rocking out, but the indoor and outdoor experiences were starkly different.
Shallow Palace, a dynamic alt-rock group celebrating the release of its new album, The Ghost That Was, utilized four impassioned vocalists and a brawny guitar-and-keyboard sound that showed shades of heavy blues rock and The Bends-era Radiohead. But despite the outfit’s energy and enthusiasm, they received a relatively muted response from the early crowd.
Later, bassist Bo White led his guitar-less contingent of two percussionists and two saxophonists through a fascinating collection of songs that were built on intricate grooves and jazzy arrangements that fit well with White’s laconic vocal delivery. Unfortunately, the increasingly formidable crowd volume made the music feel like an afterthought. The set was halted early due to weather, another unfortunate setback.
The indoor performers didn’t face such obstacles. The brother-and-sister-centered band Stagbriar played a commanding set, leaning on evocative vocal harmonies and a rich mixture of indie rock and folk that was dark and cathartic. The players seemed pretty much business-as-usual as they blasted through songs from their debut LP — Quasi-Hymns, Murder-Ballads, and Tales of How the Hero Died — and a few songs from their in-progress follow-up. The group’s live lineup seems to have not only cemented but gelled completely, giving the still-young band a surprising air of professionalism.
Banditos, while every bit as professional, cultivated a different atmosphere. Dressed like the hippie alter egos of the Duck Dynasty family, the group arrived as a down-home party band — one foot in the mostly blue grass of Old Crow Medicine Show and another in the swampy rock of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Setting the group apart from a recent glut of similar bands was Mary Beth Dickerson, a fiery performer whose impassioned vocals nodded to Janis Joplin and Alabama Shakes without straying too far from the band’s signature sound. Lead guitarist Jeffery David Salter was also on point. He offered little stage presence, standing unassumingly next to the drummer, but he sprinkled the songs with finely honed solos and fills that belied the ramshackle veneer put forth by the band’s front line.
As Banditos finished up, playing to a few hundred people, it was hard not to feel satisfied. Despite the outdoor impediments, Arts & Draughts remained a wonderful opportunity for casual fans of music and the visual arts to experience both kinds of programming in a comfortable and unpretentious setting — a vital entry point into the city’s burgeoning arts scene.
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